Teaching students to use math strategies ensures that they have a plan for problem-solving, but there are many other reasons and rewards. Students gain confidence when they realize they have strategies for solving to success with the accompanying understanding. In this post, I will share easy ways to integrate math strategies into our math lessons.
Easy Ways To Teach Math Strategies
Teaching students to use a math strategy is simple! First, we choose a process for solving to introduce based on the level of development of our students. Math strategies all bring support to problem-solving, but some are more supportive than others. Some strategies support students working in the concrete, some in the representational, and some in the abstract. The more strategies we give students, the more empowered and confident they become across the math continuum of development.
The Math Warm-Up
An easy way to introduce and practice strategies whole group is with a math warm-up. Once a strategy has been introduced, the math warm-up is where students can have a chance to share a strategy that they use to solve and why while also listening to their peers do the same! In the kindergarten warm-up below, students are given a concrete representation of addition. Students can share their understanding of the visual addition problem out loud expressing the process of how to solve for the sum. As we do this, we invite other strategies for solving and model them. For example, a student may say that they counted the crayons to find the sum. Another student may say that they counted up from 6 three times. Perhaps another student used a ten frame or drew dots, etc. All of these simple strategies are explained and shared in the math chat.
Here is another example of a kindergarten math chat. As you can see there is variety in the levels of CPA. (Concrete Pictorial and Abstract) This allows students to join in the math warm-up at any level of understanding. For more on math warm-ups, you can click the pictures or check out THIS POST.
Math Vocabulary to Support Strategies for Solving
Another significant addition to your math block (see what I did there) is explicit vocabulary instruction. I know cue the violins. Time is tight and we teach vocabulary during reading so we are good right? Well… let me try to convince you that you’ll love how your students gain insight and better express their process in solving when they have the correct vocabulary! First, just having a small focus board (or area of your whiteboard) can help you quickly and easily add a few words to support the concept and skill you are teaching. Starting with the big overarching math strand we have a visual definition card (pictured below). Available for grades K-4. (shown is grade 2)
Then as a math warm-up on “Wordy Wednesday,” we add one word or multiple words that enhance our understanding of the skill. Below you can see some of the words for the different strands of second grade. (available K-4)
Explicit Math Strategy Instruction
During the course of one school year, I introduce multiple strategies to my groups day in and out which ends up being roughly 40 different strategies. In order to keep these straight, I created visuals of each strategy so we can “name it and claim it” as we go. I introduce a strategy. Show the visual. Model the process of using it. I call these our math strategies.
As we move through the school year we apply math in many different situations and modalities. Students are always growing and developing mathematically. We want to push them to make new connections, discoveries and to apply math in more complex situations. We want to move from very supported to less supported strategies for solving.
Just like we want to post the visual vocabulary cards, we also want to remind students of the many strategies they have to solve. As we learn a new process, we add it. Here’s an example of 6 math strategies for solving an addition problem.
As students grow through the year we introduce them to the appropriate strategies for solving.
Along with introducing math strategies for solving, we also want to give students the tools to carry out their problem-solving. Just like the math strategies, these can support a wide range of levels and learning. When students are ready, they move to less supportive tools or math mats. Having this resource both in the small group setting as well as available for students during independent practice is recommended. To see more about how I use these math tools, check out THIS POST.
Math Word Problems with Math Strategies
Word problems can be an area that students struggle. With these math strategies word problems tasks, students can solve and show their strategies in an easy fun format. Although the mats have some basic strategies for each strand, students can always solve any way they want! Use in small group, independent practice, homework, or a center rotation! You can print on copy paper, laminate, or throw in a pocket sleeve and you will be solving word problems using strategies in no time! Available K-2. Linked after the example pictures.
Math Strategies on YouTube
If you like to hear things on repeat, I have a YOUTUBE VIDEO explaining what this post was about! I hope you find some fresh ways to incorporate math strategies in your learning!